Saturday, July 30, 2011

Summer Reading List...

Summer is all about books and reading, right? I'm happily surrounded by books of all kinds this summer. First are these three wonderful "little books" from a recent swap on Creative Swaps site. Swap hostess Lenna Andrews, from the Gulf Coast of Florida, made the little denim and lace book at the upper left. She stamped the denim, which she left with a slight raw-edge for a nice frayed look, and stitched on lace trim and a ribbon closure. Inside are blank pages for me to journal on. These are sewn in and trimmed with paper tape. It's a sweet little book that measures just 4" square. Sentiments on the inside covers say "It is the smaller moments that create the most exquisite beauty" and "Create as though there are no critics." Good words to live by.

The pink fabric book at the upper right was made by Siri Hauge Opdal from Norway. It's soft and flexbile, and contains page after page of trims and embellishments. Clearly she put a lot of thought and workmanship into the pages... and she must have a very interesting stash of embellishments! Even the spine is trimmed with small heart-shaped buttons.

A poem by poet Wilhelm Busch is the theme of Sabine Schneider's swap book. Sabine is from Germany. She used painted canvas fabric as the base, and added machine sewn transparencies, stamped images, glittered lettering, and hand sewn trims like a feather and button. There's even a pen nib sewn in, shown above, to go along with the literary theme. The book is tied closed with sheer rayon ribbon. Lovely!

We are heading to Maine for a few days of travel and lobster dining, so of course books are part of the trip. I've got my e-reader Nook loaded. Also I borrowed Diane Mott Davidson's latest mystery, Crunch Time, from the library. Her series of titles make enjoyable reading, plus they contain some interesting recipes. The main character, Goldy Schulz, is a Colorado caterer who just happens to stumble into all sorts of mysteries while she's cooking. Books are such great travel companions.

Waiting for me when I get home is this "Squash Book", above. I started it a long time ago, using a piece of hand-embroidered, mono-printed fabric for the cover. It's little (about 4" sqauare), but there is a lot of space to fill inside. I'm inching toward filling it, and hope to show you that one completed in August. I'll also provide a link to a tutorial I found for making one of these... they are great fun to put together! See you in August.

Friday, July 22, 2011

An Open Book...

At last! I have completed the Remains of the Day journal. The cover was shown in a previous post. I may be slow and plodding, but projects eventually do get done. After enrolling in the class offered by Mary Ann Moss, I made the cover and began saving and sorting all sorts of paper and images for use in this journal. Then it was time to compose pages, sewing bits and pieces in place in a pleasing way. Business cards, food photos, magazine covers, advertising brochures, patterned paper, envelopes, paper bags, fabric strips... all of it found its way into the journal.

There are two signatures (groups of pages) in this journal, and each one contains 8 folded pages for a total of 32 pages in the book. I even sewed enough pages to have a pretty good start on my next journal.

There is always more to a subject than first meets the eye, and I've enjoyed learning about book making. There's an entire vocabulary to master... words like "signature" and "spread" (the two pages you see when a book is open). Even the left and right pages of a spread have a term. In the photo below, the green heart is on the recto, or right-hand page, while the yellow arrow is on the verso, or left-hand page. I don't know if I'll remember the terms, but I hope to craft more handmade books, so they might just stick with me.

I've also borrowed several library books on the subject of handmade books. It's fascinating how many methods and styles there are, some of them quite simple to accomplish. "Making Handmade Books" by Alisa Golden is one title that has useful information and clear instructions.

The next questions to answer are: Will I be courageous enough to write in my journal? Will I have anything to say? Even if it remains blank, it's been great fun to create!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Pretty Blocks in a Row...

Here's another effort for our guild's Row Robin swap. There are 8 of us participating. Ordinarily the rows would not be shown until the completion date. However, it's safe to show this one now because the recipient is not online and won't see it. She chose a pretty, dusty lavender batik as her focus fabric, along with a tone-on-tone print for the background. And she's open to whatever block designs each quilter wants to dream up.

Well, that's all the permission I needed to sort through my batik scraps and come up with pretty bits for these four string-pieced Square-in-a-Square blocks. Such a delightful mess I made out of those scraps! Then I puzzled over the corner triangles, trying to remember the formula for cutting quarter-square triangles. What size, what to add... but at last it came to me... these are just half-square triangles, and the math for cutting them was easy. Talk about making a mountain out of a mole hill. Problem solved.

I wanted to add some fusible applique to the row as well. Two Star Flower blocks from Cynthia Tomaszewski's "Aunties Garden" pattern seemed just the ticket. And I arranged the string-pieced blocks in both horizontal and vertical orientations when assembling the row.

These kinds projects are such fun to work on, and allow plenty of room to experiment with something small. No pressure. I'm not making a whole quilt... just a row. The rows measure 54" finished width. And we can create our choice of block sizes and combos within that requirement. Three rows down, and five to go. I look forward to our "big reveal", and seeing the quilts completed.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Whirligig Quilt...

This is another quilt I've been inching along toward completion. Now the binding is on, and it is done. The pattern makes use of width-of-fabric strips joined in pairs. They're 2 1/2" strips, so it's a good quilt for using a Jelly Roll or similar pre-cut fabric collections.

As you look at the quilt, you'll notice that the border blocks and the blocks in the inner rectangle are reverse images of each other (see side-by-side blocks in photo below). Using the strip-piecing method in the pattern results in both blocks being sewn at the same time. So it really feels like a "quick quilt." You can find the pattern in quilt shops, or on the Quilt-in-a-Day website.

Claudia from Quiltworks of Orange Springs quilted this project. I like the graceful, swirling leafy motif she used on it. You can see it more clearly in the photo below where I've placed blocks on the back side of the quilt to photograph them. It's a soft and feminine quilt. I'm not sure where this quilt will reside. It may become a charitable donation quilt, but I'm still thinking on it.

Below are some more of the leftovers. There are lots of 4-Patch units from trimming the strip sets. Of course I can hardly bear to throw anything away, so these will lurk in the closet until I dream up a project that will make use of them. They won't be lonely in the closet though. There are more leftovers in there to keep them company. The ones at right, below, are from a Drunkard's Path quilt top that is waiting for a border. What do you do with your leftovers?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Thought I'd Never Finish...

Phew! This donation quilt turned into a long, longterm project for me. I pieced the top on a quilting retreat in the spring, using all green prints from my fabric stash. And I decided to machine quilt it myself. This was a big decision since I quilt small projects myself, but usually send larger tops to a longarm quilter. Quilting friend Jean calls this "quilting by check." I've only machine quilted one or two larger quilts on my own. So it's still relatively new territory, and I truly admire those who accomplish beautiful, award winning quilting on their home machines. I'm improving, but still have a long way to go.

I learned plenty of things about machine quilting while completing this project. Some of them I'd read or heard, and my experience confirms them. Others were simply discoveries I made. Here are the top five:

1) Set up is important- I used a countertop behind the quilt, a long table to the left, and the Gidget II sewing table from Leah Day. All of this supported the quilt nicely and kept drag to a minimum.

2) The right tools help- the machine quilting gloves... I used Machingers... are comfortable, lightweight, and give the necessary grip for manipulating the quilt.

3) Don't worry about the whole quilt, just focus on what is under the needle- things had a way of working out well when I did this. As long as I kept the small area where I was sewing under control, the entire project fell into place nicely.

4) Stay relaxed- while I like listening to recorded books, trying to follow the narrator while quilting just didn't work out. I kept missing sections of the story. So instead, I streamed the "easy listening favorites" from Tampa's station The Dove on my desktop computer. Nice!

5) Make a new plan- originally I'd planned on making one of these quilts from each colorway of fabric in my stash. The idea was to use up fabrics, and to make quilts that will be used by those in need. Our quilting guild actively supports several charitable organizations with lots of quilts every year. But I can't say I enjoyed the machine quilting experience, nor was I fully happy with the results. Plus, I'm very s-l-o-o-w. So maybe I'll make quilt tops, and have them professionally quilted. Or maybe I'll bring fabric to the free table at guild. Quilt small projects? yes... quilt larger ones? Not so likely. The fabric stash of greens is nicely reduced though.

Here's one reason I was so slow... Lily. I see blog after blog which shows quilters' cats, and even dogs, hovering around the sewing room to offer advice and assitance. Lily is no exception. What a great helper! Quilt comes out... she gets on! She even made a cocoon for herself out of the quilt while I tried to sew on the binding! To say nothing of the biting of batting. All work comes to a halt when it's her nap time. She can sure wreak havoc in the sewing room.

And look how perilously close I came to running out of the variegated thread I'd chosen for the project. Yikes!